PCNs in the most deprived areas of England are missing out on funds and additional staff because of ‘skewed’ funding arrangements, according to research from the Health Foundation.
The report Doing More For Less said that areas with high deprivation were losing out because the greater health needs of their populations were not adequately taken into account by current funding mechanisms.
It said practices in the poorest areas could benefit from an additional £18.6m a year if funding better accounted for deprivation.
The new research also found that, when increased need is accounted for, there were significantly fewer additional primary care staff, such as pharmacists, physiotherapists and care coordinators, in the most deprived areas compared with the least deprived areas – six fewer per 100,000 needs-adjusted patients.
Dr Rebecca Fisher, a GP and a senior policy fellow at the Health Foundation, said: ‘General practice in the poorest areas, where people have the greatest health needs, is missing out on much needed funding and additional staff.
‘Without this, the health of people in more deprived areas risks falling even further behind other parts of the country.’
The Health Foundation said the disparity between affluent and deprived areas was particularly concerning given that PCNs have been tasked with reducing health inequalities.
And it urged NHS England to reform its funding formulas to ensure PCNs in areas of high deprivation receive the funding they need.
Dr Fisher said the renegotiation of funding contracts for PCNs and GPs was ‘an opportunity to address this issue’.
The Health Foundation report said that those at the frontline believed PCNs had real potential for supporting patients in the most deprived areas providing there was improved support from commissioners and funding that properly accounts for population needs.
In 2023/24, PCNs received £2.4bn of government investment in general practice.
A version of this story was first published on our sister title, Pulse PCN